The University of the People - A Tuition-Free Online University

Interview with UoP Founder Shai Reshef

The Huffington Post 2010 "Game Changers" N... People: Shai Reshef
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What Is UoPeople?

The University of the People (UoPeople) is the world's first tuition-free online university. To learn more about how this online school works, I interviewed UoPeople founder Shai Reshef. Here's what he had to say:

Q: Can you start by telling us a little bit about the University of the People?

A: University of the People is the world’s first tuition-free, online academic institution. I established UoPeople to democratize higher education and make college-level studies available to student everywhere, even in the poorest parts of the world. Utilizing open-source technology and materials with a peer-to-peer pedagogical system, we can create a global chalkboard that does not discriminate based on geographical or financial constraints. 

Q: What degrees will the University of the People offer to students?

A: When UoPeople opens its virtual gates, we will offer associate, undergraduate, and master's degrees: such as a BA in Business Administration and a BSc in Computer Science. The University plans to offer other education options in the future.

Q: How long does it take to complete each degree?

A: Full-time students will be able to complete the undergraduate degree in approximately four years, and all students will be eligible for an associate degree after two years.

Q: Are classes conducted entirely online?

A: Yes, the curriculum is internet-based. UoPeople students will learn in online study communities where they will share resources, exchange ideas, discuss weekly topics, submit assignments, and take exams, all under the guidance of respected scholars.

Q: What are your current admissions requirements?

A: The enrollment requirements include proof of graduation from a secondary school as evidence of 12 years of schooling, proficiency in English, and access to a computer with an Internet connection. Prospective students will be able to enroll online at With minimal admission criteria, UoPeople aims to provide higher education to anyone who welcomes the opportunity. Alas, in the beginning, stages, we will have to cap enrollment in order to best serve our students.

Q: Is the University of the People open to everyone regardless of location or citizenship status?

A: UoPeople will accept students regardless of location or citizenship status. It is a universal institution that anticipates students from every corner of the globe.

Q: How many students will the University of the People accept each year?

A: UoPeople anticipates tens of thousands of students to enroll within the first five years of operation, although enrollment will be capped at 300 students in the first semester. The power of online networking and word-of-mouth marketing will facilitate the growth of the University, while the open-source and peer-to-peer pedagogical model will make it possible to handle such rapid expansion.

Q: How can students increase their chances of getting accepted?

A: My personal goal is to make higher education a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Enrollment criteria are minimal, and we hope to accommodate any student who wants to be a part of this university.

Q: Is the University of the People an accredited institution?

A: Like all universities, UoPeople must comply with the rules set forth by accreditation agencies. UoPeople intends to apply for accreditation as soon as the two year waiting period for eligibility is met.

UPDATE: University of the People was accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission  (DEAC) in February 2014.

Q: How will the University of the People help students succeed in the program and after graduation?

A: My time at has taught me the value of peer-to-peer learning and its strength as a pedagogical model in maintaining high retention rates. Additionally, UoPeople plans to offer guidance and support for students upon graduation, however specific programs are still in the development phase.

Q: Why should students consider attending the University of the People?

A: Higher education has been a pipedream for too many people, for too long. UoPeople opens the doors so that a teenager from a rural village in Africa has the same opportunity to go to college as one who attended the most prestigious high school in New York. And UoPeople doesn’t just provide four years of education for students worldwide, but also the building blocks for them to go on to create a better life, community, and world.